At this point, Barack Obama -- president and now Nobel laureate -- lacks only canonization as a saint.
Normally that is bestowed only after rigor mortis sets in, but if the Vatican follows the lead of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Obama could snag at least beatification by the end of his first term.
The timing of Friday's Nobel Peace Prize was indeed a shock. Even some of his admirers were calling it premature. There had been a lot of talk of the prize going to Chinese human rights advocate Hu Jia, who has a considerable history of courageous, effective activism in the face of a hostile dictatorship. Obama -- who isn't nine months into his presidency -- has no such record.
He said as much Friday, when he expressed his own surprise at the honor and acknowledged it was not a recognition of concrete achievement.
Obama's Nobel feels more like a publisher's advance, like the multimillion-dollar one he's likely to get one day on the expectation that he'll deliver something well worth reading. Or a big loan to a promising entrepreneur.
The committee that bestows this honor leans decidedly to the left these days; its Labor/Socialist majority may hope the prize will point American foreign policy in the same direction. A sort of preemptive strike against the pursuit of American interests by military and other unpleasant means.
What the committee's chairman said out loud, though, was that Obama was being recognized for his vision of nuclear disarmament and the "new climate in international politics" he has fostered.
You could read that as a Nobel for not being George W. Bush. "Vision" and "climate" are distinctly intangible. But -- since this honor is also an honor of the United States and its global leadership -- let's give intangibles their due.
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